Visual Pollution Rave


Some days I despair of the look of our built environment and industrial sites. 

This weekend I dragged a child to Wingham, two hours north of home, so we could go on a walk through Wingham Brush which is a patch of remnant rainforest. The photos of the walk are here and take about a minute to watch. 

The walk was so lovely that some of the  mediocrity of modern buildings irritated me even more than usual when I came home. I’ve written before about how ugly our municipal garbage bins are (‘Does this look like the work of a council committed to visionary park design?’) And I’ve started taking photos of all our public art and it’s obvious that it’s time for something weird and out there that everyone talks about: the sort of art that may be more of an engineering feat than a thing of beauty but that people grow to love. 

The first picture is of our taxation office. Words fail me except to say that in real life there’s a single tree in front of it which improves it immensely. 

Trees improve so many things, don’t they? I took a drive past the coal loaders on Kooragang Island and felt very cross that tens of thousands of local residents are commuting past them every day, being assaulted by unspeakable ugliness, not to mention having dust blowing all over them and the city. 

There’s an extremely helpful sign by the river erected by the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group and the Maritime authority which tells us who to complain to if we have a problem. I suggest we all write to them. We have a problem. 

If you double-click on the picture it will be easier to read. It’s suitably defaced but the email address is visible. 

Across the river from the piles of coal is the site where BHP had its steel-works. BHP started steelmaking in Newcastle in 1915 and closed in 1999. BHP Billiton is currently cleaning the river: 

 The contaminants were generated over a long period of time when environmental standards didn’t exist or were not the same as they are today.’ (HRRP community newsletter Number 1 – 1.4MB available here. I wouldn’t download it. ) 


One of the things that started me thinking about ugliness is that the facilities in the current courthouse are inadequate so a new one’s about to be built. I really hope it’s going to look better than the tax office and the other buildings near it. It’s ironic that this is happening at the same time that our Post Office, a beautiful Victorian building, has been bought back by the state government having been so badly neglected by a developer that parts of it are now structurally unsound. It would be sad if there weren’t imaginative plans for the current Victorian heritage courthouse building that would keep it safe. 


I wonder how on earth the queen gets on where her facilities are inadequate. Does she move out and build something new? Where is the imagination required to keep our heritage building working and relevant and looked after? 

Anyway, here’s my email to NCIG: 

Like tens of thousands of Newcastle commuters I drive past the coal loaders on Kooragang Island every working day.
Like tens of thousands of Newcastle people I benefit from the jobs these coal loaders have created and supported and benefit from the income generated for the state from royalties for coal moved through the port.
Newcastle people suffer the disadvantages as well, however, like seeing thirty coal ships every time they try to take in an otherwise beautiful ocean view or the coal loader conveyer belts rising above what is otherwise a glassy and gorgeous river in the mornings while crossing the Tourle Street bridge.
So I ask – do you have any plans to plant some trees along the drive from the Tourle street Bridge to Stockton Bridge to try to improve the lot of Newcastle people by softening the view of conveyer belts and mountains of coal??
I would respectfully suggest you look at the building on the left as one approaches Stockton Bridge – I think it’s Hi-Fert: the trees around that make it almost invisible from some angles. And the white storage tanks beyond the roundabout to the east of Simsmetal: the trees in front of that do a good job of softening their outlines.
Surely as good corporate citizens you would want to try to improve the look of that road? Newcastle people are hard-working, long-suffering and tolerant and deserve better treatment than they currently receive.    Home

Trees hiding a chemical factory


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3 Responses to “Visual Pollution Rave”

  1. Ali Says:

    good letter!

  2. Sean Freeman Says:

    Very well put Caity.

    Come on all you Novocastrians out there….say loud and say it proud! Demand better of your fellow corporate citizens and public servants.

    “Qui tacet consentiret”: your silence implies you agree with what is out there….so unless you do…I would think you should take any opportunity to express your feelings about your local environment, and how you want to see it improved.

    I have always personally felt that a silent majority is no majority at all.

  3. Bernadette Says:

    Hear hear! This is Newcastle’s dirty secret. Why don’t we find out where our election candidates stand on all this mess?

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